What kind of leader do you want to be? In this blog, I’d like to look a little more deeply into what goes into making a leader’s personal brand. Leaders’ brands must go beyond communicating who they are, they must also indicate how they will lead, what gives them the edge and what unique value they deliver. A personal leadership brand must be particularly clear about how the leader will benefit the organisation they lead and its key stakeholders.
Leaders thus need to think through not only who they are but also what they stand for and want to achieve. One could see this as developing the theory and then the action plan for turning the theory into reality. Leaders are measured not by their words but by their behaviour and actions—if the two are in harmony, a powerful momentum is created.
When constructing their brands, leaders should probably begin with their current reputation. Essentially one’s reputation is a product of the past, so it’s a starting point. The leader’s brand needs to be clear about how that reputation provides the springboard for describing how he or she will lead.
Is your Personal Brand Authentic?
Leaders must also ensure that their personal brands are authentic and genuinely reflect who they are and what they stand for, especially as a leader’s brand is subject to high levels of scrutiny. This quest for authenticity is important for everybody, but it’s vital for leaders.
I recall working with a leader who was trying to subordinate his own sense of self for what he believed the organisation was looking for in its leaders. In working through the situation, we discovered that his uniquely authentic passions—purpose-driven collaboration and a desire to drive socio-economic change—would actually become part of his differentiation as a leader.
Leaders need to understand what their strengths are—and what their “best self” is. By focusing on their strengths, they give themselves a competitive edge that is sharp and differentiating.
In my work with leaders, I often encounter a strong (but counterproductive) inclination to focus on one’s weaknesses as opposed to leveraging strengths to harness leadership power. However, when weaknesses and blind spots are consistently identified by key stakeholders, and they negatively impact performance, they need to be integrated into the brand.
For example, a leader whose chronic lateness is threatening his or her personal brand might want to integrate punctuality into the brand persona in order to support a positive behaviour change.
Make your Personal Brand Self-Reinforcing
Having determined what their brand is and what they stand for, leaders need to use their brand to drive their behaviour and thus control how they are perceived. When the values and aspirations contained in the brand start to become visible in action then the brand becomes a self-reinforcing “virtuous circle”.
At the same time, a well-constructed and authentic brand can help a leader gain visibility. In my workshops, I always tell people that if they have low visibility, they are essentially invisible. The world is full of wannabes, and a personal brand is how a leader communicates not only what he or is and aspires to be, but also what sets them apart from others. Distinguishing oneself from other leaders is an important ingredient not only for individual success but for ensuring a certain leadership direction gains traction.
Creating a leadership brand is an essential process to help leaders come to grips with what they really stand for—not just as an individual but as somebody who supports others in realising their potential. Most leaders don’t spend enough time thinking through this important issue and, as a result, their leadership is not as effective as it might be. In the long run, leaders only succeed if their actions clearly unleash the potential of others while delivering tangible benefit to the organisation.
Do you know how to Make Your Mark as a Leader? We’ll show you how!